Photo in the News: Penguin Shoes Ensure "Happy" Feet

Little penguin wearing shoes photo
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November 15, 2006—They might not be suede, but these blue shoes are a perfect fit for "Elvis."

The newly shod bird, seen here, is one of 18 "second chance" little penguins now living at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. The penguins, also called blue or fairy penguins, were adopted from Marineland in Napier, New Zealand, which rescues sick or injured marine animals and sends some of those that can't return to the wild to live at regional animal centers.

But not long after their September arrival in Christchurch, a few penguins started to develop calluses on their feet that could have led to infections. Such calluses are common for penguins in captivity, because the seabirds, which normally spend most of their time fishing at sea, occasionally get lazy and spend too much time waddling on land.

"When the penguins arrived … some developed sore feet, and this has proved quite tricky for us to treat," International Antarctic Centre director Richard Benton said in a press release.

So the center's staff began a rigorous treatment regime, including saltwater foot baths, ointment applications, and fashion footwear design. The special penguin shoes—available in blue and green—are tailored specifically for the little penguins and are made of breathable material with light rubber soles.

"We have seen a dramatic improvement," Benton said, "and [we] expect that they will only be wearing their pretty shoes for a very short time."

—Victoria Gilman

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